I find that most productivity hints and tips suggest good practices that we should be doing. Reversing this, perhaps there are some things that we should absolutely not be doing and this has lead to creating The Don’t Do model.
Simply, this is about identifying things that we do as a part of a normal day that adds no or little value to what we are trying to achieve. Perhaps it is a ‘feel good’ to get many likes on your LinkedIn, or other social posts but are they adding any real value that you trade with your time. In a world brimming with distractions and demands, mastering the art of saying ‘No‘ to certain tasks can be transformative and increase your personal time or space.
This seven step process is designed to be followed sequentially.
Step 1: Self-Reflection
Before diving into the worksheet, it’s crucial to set your intentions. This initial phase is about grounding yourself in your productivity goals and aligning them with the broader objectives of your personal and professional life.
Self-reflection is the cornerstone of personal development. This step is about observing your daily activities without judgment to gain awareness of where your time is currently being spent. It’s a discovery phase where patterns of behaviour are noted, providing a baseline for change.
- What are my main goals for improving productivity?
- Which areas of my life/work do I feel need more focus?
Step 2: Identification of Time-Wasters
With a week’s worth of observations at hand, you will identify the recurring activities that contribute least to your goals. This step is about recognizing the habits that are holding you back so that you can begin to formulate a plan to change them.
You may find it useful to think about
- What activities today made me feel unproductive?
- Were there any moments when I felt my time could have been better spent?
Step 3: Categorisation
Categorisation helps to organize your identified time-wasters into groups. This step is essential for understanding the nature of your unproductive activities, which can then be addressed with more targeted strategies.
To help think about categories of activity, think about
- What categories do these activities fall into (e.g., distractions, low-value tasks)?
- How do these categories align with my personal and professional priorities?
Step 4: Prioritisation
Not all unproductive activities are created equal. This step involves prioritising which habits to tackle first, based on their impact on your productivity. This will help create a focused plan of action that yields noticeable improvements in your daily routine.
- Which of these activities have the most negative impact on my productivity?
- Are there any activities that, while unproductive, might be necessary for my well-being or work-life balance?
Step 5: Creating the ‘Don’t Do’ List
Here, you’ll articulate your ‘Don’t Do’ List, a manifesto of habits to avoid. This step is about commitment; by writing down these activities, you are pledging to yourself to steer clear of habits that lead to unproductive outcomes.
We now come to the crunch. Give yourself some time to work on this and ask yourself
- What activities consistently disrupt my focus or productivity? This question helps identify the specific tasks or habits that most frequently derail your productivity. Consider both work-related and personal activities.
- Why do I feel the need to engage in these activities? Understanding the underlying reasons why you engage in these unproductive activities is crucial. Is it due to habit, avoidance of more challenging tasks, a desire for distraction, or something else?
- How do these activities impact my short-term and long-term goals? Reflect on the ways in which these activities hinder your progress towards your goals. Are they simply time-wasters, or do they have a more profound negative impact on your personal or professional growth?
- What positive alternatives to these activities can I can engage in instead? For each activity on your ‘Don’t Do’ List, consider if there’s a more productive or beneficial alternative. For example, instead of checking social media, could you take a short walk or do a quick mindfulness exercise?
- How will eliminating or reducing these activities improve my life? Envision the potential benefits and improvements to your daily routine and overall well-being by reducing or eliminating these activities. This can serve as a motivational factor in adhering to your ‘Don’t Do’ List.
Step 6: Implementation Plan
With your ‘Don’t Do’ List in hand, this step is about strategizing how to effectively eliminate or reduce these activities from your daily life. It involves setting practical steps and integrating support systems to ensure these changes are actionable.
For those difficult to break ‘habits’ think about using post it note – perhaps saying ‘remember No PC’ if you wanted to think before ploughing into the day.
Some things to explore
- What specific strategies will I use to avoid or limit these activities?
- How can I make these changes sustainable and resistant to old habits?
Step 7: Review and Adjust
Progress is not always linear, and this step is your opportunity to reflect on the changes you’ve implemented. It’s a time to celebrate successes, learn from challenges, and make necessary adjustments to your ‘Don’t Do’ List and strategies.
- What successes or challenges have I encountered in following my ‘Don’t Do’ List?
- How can I adjust my list and strategies for better results?
So there we have it – the don’t do task list. A powerful and dynamic worktool that can change the way you look at and do work.